Tournament expansion would over-saturate NCAAWritten by Dave Woolford | | email@example.com
Every dance has its share of wallflowers, those folks with introverted tendencies who hug the perimeter waiting for someone of equally nonexistent social skills to ask them to dance or just acknowledge their presence with a conversation starter like, “I love the penholder in your shirt pocket.”
The NCAA is considering an increase in the size of its annual post-season college basketball tournament, referred to as “The Big Dance,” or just, “The Dance,” by adding 31 wallflowers.
That’s pretty much what you would get when you add so many additional teams to an already brimming field of 64 participants.
You would go from, “Dancing With The Stars,” to “Dancing With The Sub-pars.”
With apologies to numbers 65 and beyond, March Madness would become a square dance because of too many squares.
Bigger might be better in some cases but once you reach full capacity the law of diminishing returns takes over and the fire marshal even gets involved.
If the NCAA expands its tournament field to 96 teams the tournament, heretofore college basketball’s signature event, will not become emancipated but rather emaciated in appearance.
Getting trampled in the process will be the significance of college regular-season games, conference tournaments and, of course, the NIT, which the NCAA also controls.
Isn’t there already enough dilution and dullness with teams of significance scheduling teams of insignificance in the preconference season so the big shots can pad their way to the essential minimum of at least 18 victories? That at least qualifies for scrutiny from the Big Dance chaperons.
And with the college game stripped of much of its significance by a postseason monster jam, you might wonder where the fans land in this abusive overhaul. Certainly not on their feet as experience gives way to newly rewarded mediocrity.
From a fan’s interactive perspective, what sporting event has more appeal than March Madness? But filling out a 96-team bracket might be more of an issue than filing your income tax.
Imagine Selection Sunday when brackets are filled and teams are seeded. It might spill into a Selection Monday with analysts arguing as to why the team that finished fourth in the Horizon Conference should be seeded higher than the team that finished third in the Frontier League, both part of the 96-team mob scene.
The genesis of all of this full court claptrap is of course greed, as usual perpetrated by television. The NCAA can opt out of the final three years of its 11-year, $6 billion television contract with CBS between now and July 31. The NCAA has already been prostituting itself on the mean streets of network and cable TV, looking for a client with enough capital to maybe stretch over the next 15 years in return for more games. If TV says it wants more teams in the tournament you can bet the NCAA will oblige. Gotta boost those rights fees somehow.
How does anyone just detonate what, again, has proven to be the almost perfect tournament template as was displayed during the recently-ended 64-team NCAA tournament? Talk about upsets and drama? There was no downside. The tournament shrieked, “Don’t, in your wildest dreams, think there’s a better event, a better format!”
On the first weekend, 48 games were decided in the final minute of play and of the 16 teams that advanced to the following weekend’s regionals eight were seeded fourth or lower and four were seeded ninth or lower.
It doesn’t always work that way but the existing model showed that it can accomplish what it’s designed to do.
The NCAA’s mantra is whatever is in the best interests of the student-athlete, preceded only by what’s in the best interest of the NCAA preceded by whatever television demands.
Greed has no conscience.
The NCAA’s basketball tournament has always been lauded for getting it right, especially when compared to the BCS and its national championship team selection. Sixty-four teams are given the right to win a national D-1 college basketball title. As for college football, only two teams are selected through a system that is complicated, often inaccurate, biased and unreasonable. College football would be ecstatic to have just an eight-team playoff.
Only 18 percent of its member teams make the NCAA Tournament compared to 56 percent of football teams that participate in usually meaningless bowl games. The NBA and NHL both have 53 percent of their membership in postseason play while the NFL has 37 percent and Major League Baseball 26 percent.
The difference in those numbers is that there are 347 schools in Division 1. Maybe it’s time we threw them all in the tournament pot. By now we would be entering the Region 12, fourth round of subregional quarterfinals play with Drake’s Bulldogs battling the Missoula Montana School of Music, the Bulldogs playing their eighth game in the last nine nights.
The NCAA’s tournament plan was purposely leaked to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who obligingly leaked it to the public to soften the blow should 96 teams lead the big parade. It would still have to be approved by the D-1 men’s basketball committee and its board of directors.
Let’s hope there resides some sanity somewhere before the Big Dance experiences its last tango with total tolerance.